From struggle to success
I was 7 and my sister was 11, when our father passed away. It was traumatic for us and financially challenging as well. The new dynamics in the family were taxing on us during our formative years. In addition, ours was a family where weight issue was a problem everyone struggled with.
I myself struggled with being too skinny and boyish. My sister had a problem with some extra weight and the extended family was officially obese. As I think back, me and my sister were living in each other’s shadow. I always wanted her attention as a baby sister, while for her, looking at me was like looking in a mirror – a mirror that constantly reminded her. None of this helped us maintain a deep relationship but it did make me more aware of the behavior of people around me and on a subconscious level I started analyzing people.
We also coped our teenage years differently. I was more outgoing than she was. I went into partying and drugs, so taking jobs in different pubs came naturally. It was fun to talk to people and try to figure out who they really are.
At 25, I switched to a more stable, corporate job. But the 2008 financial crisis pushed me to a career change. As I already had a pre-qualification in teaching sports, in 2010, I decided to enter the field of personal training. Once I finished the course I moved to the UK. I knew that it would be the right environment to build a fitness career in the EU. But then I met my future husband, who was from Egypt. Soon I moved to Cairo.
I arrived right before the revolution of 2011. All the expats – wives and children – had to leave the country which meant, there were not enough expats. So, in a way, I was lucky with the timing. The only British owned personal training studio in town was in need of EU qualified female trainers. It was a perfect match and I started working there. After a while I felt an uncanny connection with my clients. It was probably because I knew the related psychological factors such as shame, blame and losing control that I could connect with.
I noticed that most clients would lose weight and then gain again. It was like a pattern. As their trainer, I started to feel frustrated.
Was I doing it wrong? I started thinking. “How can I just take a leg day or a shoulder day? I need to take a more holistic approach and deal with this person as a human and not just a collection of body parts that need to get into shape”. Once I started talking to my clients, I realized most of them had deep rooted psychological issues. Interestingly, not just those who were obese; even some who looked very fit and were fitness freaks, were using fitness as a coping mechanism with their own insecurities. Catching the psychological cues, I felt was important. This was gradually manifesting into an article; a summary where I documented all the missing aspects of a personal trainer’s formal education.
I realized that just a fitness training program was insufficient without a deeper understanding of the person.
It isn’t just enough to ask “Do you take any medicine?” I also need to ask “Is your home full of supportive people around you? Are you happy when you go home or are you stressed?” If a person is not in a good state of mind, will his body perform? Sometimes a good conversation is better than a bad training, I believe.
We moved to Dubai last year. I decided to use my knowledge to create a formal coursework to help fellow trainers. I submitted my proposal to the European Register of Exercise Professionals and in January this year my course “Psychology and Pedagogy in Personal Training’ has been officially accepted as a formal course (http://www.ereps.eu/a-llp/psychology-and-pedagogy-personal-training).
I maintain a blog (in Hungarian as of now) where I have more than 300 Senior trainers from Hungary following me. I hope that eventually I can reach a larger audience and make this a mandatory part in the process of becoming a trainer anywhere in the world. After all, Happy minds lead to happy bodies!